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The United States Coast Guard reports that the search for the 49-year-old Cordova man who disappeared following an explosion and fire at the Delong Dock in Whittier has been called off with no positive results after a search that covered 12 square miles over a 17-hour period.
Deputy Commander of Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, Commander Mark Kuperman stated, “The Coast Guard committed all available resources in conducting this search effort, our thoughts are with the family and friends who were impacted by this tragedy.”
It was shortly after midnight on Monday that a broadcast of “Whittier fire, Whittier fire” was picked up by watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Anchorage over VHF channel 16. Dispatchers in Whittier, when contacted, confirmed the fire at the dock. A short time later a security officer with the Alaska Railroad also reported the situation.
According to the initial report, the fire began when an explosion took place on a fixed barge at the dock. The fire soon spread to the dock and to the 90-foot fishing vessel Alaganik.
By 2:50 am the fire was reported to be extinguished. But, by then the barge, as well as the Alaganik, had both sunk at the dock in approximately 85-foot of water. It is reported that as much as 5,500 gallons of fuel was aboard the vessels at the time.
Initial reports indicated that the Alaganik had two persons aboard, but USCG would find that only one person was present while the other was on a second vessel en route to Whittier.
The Coast Guard cutter Chandeleur and a Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk forward deployed to Cordova took up the search for the missing man with no success.
The owners of the Alaganik have contacted Global Diving and Salvage to begin cleanup and salvage efforts.
The Coast Guard has assumed the lead in the National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the incident.
Next of Kin notification was conducted.